By Barb Arland-Fye
Sorting through strings of multicolored Christmas lights to decorate our deck for the Advent and Christmas seasons, my husband Steve discovered three sets of small blue lights. His discovery inspired a small construction project to create a lighted “NOEL” sign to place at the center of our deck to convey the joy of Christ’s birth to pandemic-weary passersby.
One inspiration led to another as he reflected on the Christmas song, “The First Nowell” (The Middle English spelling of Noel). “…They looked up and saw a star shining in the east beyond them far; And to the earth it gave great light, And so it continued both day and night….”
Of course! A lighted star! Where could he find one? Steve searched online and found the star he wanted, one with a long tail that would capture people’s attention as they drove, ran or walked along the Great River Road past our house in LeClaire. Unfortunately, shipment of the star would take place in March.
Steve widened his online search and found the perfect star at a home improvement store in Galesburg, Illinois, a major rail hub, which made the 50-mile trip worth it for this retired locomotive engineer. He returned home quickly to work on his construction project, behind closed doors. He began in the garage, using a jigsaw to create the 2-foot-square letters from PVC board and then moved to the furnace room/workroom to drill holes in the letters to place the blue lights. I could hear the whine of the drill from my home office upstairs, and knew that Steve was in his happy place.
One night last week, while talking on the phone with my mom, Steve motioned for me to come downstairs. I followed him to the furnace room and let my jaw drop at the lighting the first two letters “NO.” The soft blue glow emitted by the lights against the white letters in the darkened furnace room captivated me. My mind raced back to childhood, the year my parents put up a white-flocked Christmas tree and decorated it in blue lights. I still feel a sense of wonder from that long ago Christmas.
More work remained; this Advent project, like the season, required patience and a healthy dose of anticipation. Last Saturday, following a small but sloppy snowfall, I assisted Steve in attaching the “NOEL” decoration to the railing at the center of our deck. He had to make at least two trips into town to get the supplies necessary to keep the decoration in place and to mount the star. How fitting! The decoration shone brightly for the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, “when we shift our reflection from ‘the Lord is coming’ to ‘the Lord is near’” (www.usccb.org).
The Gospel reading for the Third Sunday in Advent (John 1:6-8, 19-28) tells of John the Baptist, a man sent from God, to prepare the way of the Lord. John came “to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.”
Steve is not John the Baptist, but his faith and anticipation of the incarnation of Christ inspired him to testify to the light, with a joyful message that pierces the darkness with hope. Steve told me, “There is something good” in the midst of a pandemic. “Christ is coming.”
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)